October marks the beginning of a fun-filled time of year, except if you factor in the cold and flu season. Although the peak time for flu season is usually between December and February, some infections begin as early as October, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Therefore, it’s important to get the flu vaccine now rather than later, when you’re in bed miserable with a fever and missing work.
There are three options for the vaccine: intramuscular, intradermal and nasal spray, the CDC says.
Healthy children ages two through eight are encouraged to get the nasal spray this year instead, because it may work better than the other vaccine types for that age group.
It’s important to note that children as young as six months old can get the flu vaccine. Young children may also need two doses of the vaccine, since they are in a higher risk category, said the CDC.
Also, keep in mind that all 2014-2015 influenza vaccines help protect against three viruses, but not all protect against a fourth B virus known as B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus.
So how do you know if what you have is the flu?
Ronald Ragan, professor and dean of the School of Pharmacy at High Point University, provided his top eight symptoms of the flu via email:
1) Fever (or feeling feverish/having chills)
2) Sore throat
3) Runny or stuffy nose
5) Muscle or body aches
7) Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children)
8) Fatigue (tiredness)
Here are Ragan’s six suggestions for avoiding the flu, if you didn't get a flu shot before you get the virus:
1) “Avoid contact with people that are sick.”
2) “Frequent hand washing (antibacterial soap is helpful).”
3) “Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.”
4) “Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill.”
5) “Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, [and] manage your stress.”
6) “Drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.”
What if you already have the flu? Ragan provides three ways to keep the flu from spreading:
1) “Avoid close contact and stay home.”